I’m just gonna come out and say it: I was terrified to visit Egypt. Thanks to the media and, quite honestly, other travelers’ horror stories or negative opinions, I didn’t have the best outlook of the country.
That all changed when we landed in Cairo. Even just driving to our hotel from the airport, I got the chills over and over again – the landscape, the architecture, and the buzzing energy was unlike any place I’d been before. And it was pretty much how I imagined Egypt to look while fantasizing about it as an open-minded child.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all rosy – there were definitely parts of my time in Egypt where I wanted to crawl back into bed and escape the chaos. My mood constantly oscillated between being absolutely enthralled by the country and being frustrated or completely overwhelmed. Here’s why my relationship with Egypt went through such extreme ups and downs.
The people. Every single person we met was incredibly friendly and welcomed us to their country. Within our first hour of arriving in Cairo, two men gave us their numbers so we could call if we needed anything. One man, who we met in the hotel lounge, even gave us his room number! Everyone wanted to make sure we felt safe and enjoyed our stay. It was so heart-warming to be so welcomed in their country.
The history. Egyptian history is the only type of history that’s ever truly excited me: pyramids, young kings, gorgeous and manipulative queens, preserving your guts, etc.
The pyramids (of course). Without a doubt, our trip to Egypt was worth it just to see these incredible structures. Squat-crawling our way into the pyramids and standing within the tombs was an unforgettable experience.
The food. Middle eastern food is some of our favorite. We engorged ourselves on hummus, tahini, halloumi, and of course bread.
The prices. Especially with the current exchange rate, the costs are very inexpensive. For example, an entree in our hotel’s fancy Indian restaurant was 110 EGP, which is under $6.
The weather. For some reason, I was under the impression that Cairo was always suffocatingly hot. In reality, their winters are quite mild – we were actually chilly sometimes!
Constant, and I mean constant, tipping. Literally everyone we met expected a tip: bathroom attendants, hotel lounge staff, the men who took our picture in the pyramids, the camel guides, the adorable woman who asked me to sit with her for a picture.
Even our tour guide, who was incredibly professional the entire time, pocketed an extra $10 from us at the end of the day when he didn’t think we were paying attention. Tipping is a standard practice here, and if I had done my research, I should’ve expected this.
Traffic. Los Angeles has nothing on Cairo’s traffic. And with that comes…
Incessant honking. The cacophony reminded us of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.
The crowds. Honestly, it wasn’t as crowded as I expected. Tourism has declined dramatically since the early 2000’s. Even so, there were definitely crowds we had to push through at the “main attractions” like the museum and the sphinx.
Trash. Everywhere. The canal was so densely polluted with trash that it looked like you could walk on it.
I even saw two dead bulls in this canal, one on the side and one half in the water. That image is permanently etched into my brain. The good news: they are making huge efforts to clean up and close off this canal.
I hope you noticed there are a lot more things I liked about Egypt than disliked. It’s important to note that we never, ever felt threatened or in danger. We felt safe during our entire stay. Egypt needs tourism and I think now is a great time to visit (especially with the incredible exchange rate!) as long as you are prepared.
Have any questions about Egypt?